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LEADER -- Sweet smell of success

By Staff Reporter
25 October 2010 | 1 minute read

From corporate lawyer to MasterChef, Adam Liaw speaks to Real Estate Business' Jessica Darnbrough about the key to success and following your dreams.

Adam Liaw may best be known as a MasterChef, but it seems this young prodigy might just be the master of all he takes on.

Long before he honed his cooking skills in the MasterChef kitchen, Liaw was a successful lawyer.


And before that, Liaw was a grade A student that managed to complete year 11 by the tender age of 14, enrol in university at 16 and begin his career as a lawyer at 20.

While most students his age were in the pub, Liaw was "working a 20-hour day" as a lawyer at Finlaysons in Adelaide, stealing restful moments under his desk while assisting on the huge task of privatising South Australia's electricity entities.

After working as a lawyer in Australia for four years, Liaw started to look abroad - hoping to land a role in Asia so as to utilise his language skills.

It was at this time that a job for Tokyo Disney arose and Liaw was snapped up.


While Liaw says he was happy with his chosen career, he admits his passion for cooking far outweighed his passion for law.

By the time 31-year-old Liaw decided to leave his job as a lawyer for Disney to pursue his dream on Masterchef, he was head of legal in the company's Interactive Media Group's Asian division.

But despite reaching such lofty heights in his legal career, the chance to realise his dream of opening a restaurant - which was initially more a retirement plan - was too tempting to resist.

"There is no room in life for secret passions," he says.

"Even if you are not dropping everything and quitting your job, just talking about and making what you love come to life is so important."

But turning his dream of opening a restaurant into reality was not easy.

After breezing into the top 24 on MasterChef, Liaw was allowed to return home before filming recommenced.

It was then that notions of self-doubt started to set in.

While Liaw admits his passion for cooking is second to none, he started to have reservations about whether quitting his job and moving country for the chance to become a chef was a good idea.

"On paper, the idea of packing up shop for the chance at your dream sounds preposterous," Liaw says.

"I had to weigh up what my heart was saying and what my head was saying."

After serious contemplation, Liaw realised that it would be silly to pack up his life in a bid to follow a dream.

"So I called MasterChef and said I wouldn't be returning," he says.

"I just couldn't leave my job and my life on the off chance that I might win the competition."

Luckily for both Liaw and MasterChef enthusiasts, Channel 10 was able to convince the 31 year old to return to the competition.


Despite ultimately taking out the MasterChef title, Liaw is the first to admit that the path to success has not always been smooth.

"Making the decision to return to the show was definitely not the hardest part of my journey," he says.

According to Liaw, the most difficult aspect was dealing with the day-to-day stresses of the show.

"We were going from 4am to midnight every night - which can really take its toll on some people," he says.

Liaw says the best remedy for stress is sleep.

"I tried to get as much sleep as possible. Coming from a legal background, I have always had to deal with stress. And I find the best way to avoid burnout is sleep. It relaxes the mind and body and rejuvenates you for the next day's activities."

But while the show itself was stressful, Liaw admits that nothing could prepare him for the stresses that lay in wait once the show had finished.

In fact, Liaw says since leaving the show he has moments where he wishes he could go back and stay inside the MasterChef bubble.

Today, this lawyer turned celebrity finds it difficult to go for a beer down the road without being recognised.

Not that he minds.

Liaw says the response he has received from the Australian public has been overwhelmingly positive.

"People are always approaching me and telling me how I have inspired them to follow their dreams - whether that is cooking or otherwise," he says.

"My favourite is when people tell me I have inspired their children to start cooking, because it was as a child cooking for my family that I discovered my true passion for food."


Growing up as one of eight children, Liaw says each member of the family was forced to pull their weight in the kitchen.

"We took turns of preparing the meals for the family. It was at this stage that I discovered my passion for food. It is extremely gratifying to cook for people and see them enjoy it," he says.

Today, Liaw is currently in the process of writing his Asian inspired cookbook Two Asian Kitchens and gearing up to launch his own Japanese restaurant.

While Liaw remains tight lipped about the name and launch of his restaurant, he says we can expect to see it open early next year somewhere in Sydney.

By his own admittance, life is fairly chaotic for Australia's latest MasterChef. From media interviews and appearances to testing out new recipes for his cookbook, Liaw says he is lucky to get five minutes a day to himself.

"I've got to be honest; I am finding my situation right now far more stressful and far busier than being a lawyer ever was. I didn't think it would be as hard as it is, but it is all positive, so I can't really complain too much," he says.

But while life is hectic for the 31 year old, he says the long hours and hard work is worth it, as he gets to live out his childhood dream of opening a restaurant.

With so many accomplishments under his belt at such a young age, the questions must be asked "what is the key to success?"

It simple, says Liaw: "Work hard and do the right thing".

"If you do the right thing by your employer and by yourself you can never go wrong. It is not bad to want to follow your dreams. At the end of the day, the only thing that will ever stand in the way of achieving your dream is you."


LEADER -- Sweet smell of success
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